Does revenge solve everything? Depends on how you play.
Siobhan Keogh | Thursday, October 25 2012 | 1 Comment
Product type: First-person stealth game
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Test Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Arkane Studios; Publisher: Bethesda
You are vengeance. You are the night. You. Are. CORVO!
At the beginning of Dishonored, you watch the Empress die. You don’t have time to get to know her or like her, but you know she means a great deal to her bodyguard - your character - Corvo. The Empress and her daughter are the only people Corvo really cares about. And you have to watch as someone kills her and Corvo gets shouldered with the blame.
If that isn’t sad enough, just wait until you find out what’s happening to the Empress’s city.
Dunwall is a dank, miserable place, fueled by whale oil. Its people are dying. A plague has swept the city - particularly the poor - and it slowly drives them mad before they die. With the Empress gone, confusion about her successor is rife. Our hero, Corvo, has to clear his name and put the rightful heir, the Empress’ young daughter Emily, into the seat of power before someone else sits in it and gets settled.
A lot of things are alluded to in Dishonored, but very little is said. To your face, people almost universally speak lies and half-truths. To find out what’s really going on, you collect and read all the diaries, books and scraps of paper that weren’t intended for Corvo’s eyes. When pieced together, these spell out the real story of Dunwall.
Dunwall’s people are suffering, but still hopeful. The same might be true for Corvo, although he’s a silent protagonist and a lot has to be inferred.
There are two ways to play Dishonored - as a stealthy pacifist who avoids combat and only knocks someone out when absolutely necessary, or you could become a murderous fiend, slaying everyone who dares cross your path. You might think that killing everyone is the easier path, but you’d be wrong. It’s not just the ending that changes when you play through as a bad guy - you’ll also notice more rats and guards, and the vital papers you pick up will say different things.
You usually have one or two targets to decommission, in some way, per mission. The targets can always be taken out by non-lethal means, if you work hard enough. At the end of a mission, a screen will display your kills and your bodies discovered. The higher the number of kills and discovered bodies, the higher your chaos rating is. Keeping your chaos rating low requires you to kill less than 20% of enemies encountered throughout the game.
The level design in Dishonored is incredibly well-considered. Each level has three or perhaps four ways of approaching it (some more stealthy than others) and the sneakier ones are designed to make you feel really clever when you put two and two together. When you figure out that you can possess a rat then sneak through an air vent on the floor above to get into a room, you feel like a genius. Realistically, you feel like a genius because someone cleverer than you guided you into making that decision, while tricking you into believing that you had an abundance of choice.
Along the way, your abilities also guide the way you play. It’s much easier to be stealthy if you have the ability to teleport across the map, then possess a guard and walk him away from the rest of his colleagues. It’s much easier to be an assassin, on the other hand, if you have a fistful of incendiary arrows in hand and can summon a plague of rats to devour everything in sight.
The ability wheel makes combat in the game play like last year’s Skyrim: combat slows down while you switch weapons or magical abilities via a selection on the wheel. The game’s overall design, though, is more reminiscent of BioShock, with steampunk-inspired art stylings, linear-but-twisted environments, and bleak outlook on life.
There’s one other thing that Dishonored shares with BioShock - the tendency to make you replay the same section of the game over and over and over. The game has autosaves, but for the most part you’re reliant on manual saves. On PC, you can quicksave, no problem. On console, however, it takes a bit more effort and you won’t do it as often unless you’re very tenacious.
That’s all well and good - if a bit old-school - but sometimes you’ll get in a tough spot. For example, you might find yourself without mana and unable to use a spell like blink to escape a group of guards. Or you might be running low on ammo - it’s in short supply unless you’re using a particular power-up. When all you’ve got is a handful of bullets and you’re up against a couple of large mechs and fifteen guards, you’re going to have a bad time.
When things are going well for you Dishonored is enthralling. Ultimately, it’s not the story that gets you hooked, or the combat, or the environments - although the setting is great. It’s the pure thrill of tiptoeing around behind the backs of powerful men, yoinking their keys from their back pockets, and then disappearing into the night like you’re the goddamn Batman.
Posted by Anonymous at 20:08:20 on November 21, 2012
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